Social Question

Mariah's avatar

What is your view on the banning of blood donations from homosexual men?

Asked by Mariah (25624points) August 16th, 2010

In the US and many other countries, men who have had homosexual encounters, even once, are banned for life from donating blood. This article contains more details. Many people view this as discriminatory beyond what’s necessary for safety, and some are going so far as encouraging the boycotting of blood donation. What’s your take?

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40 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think it’s wrong and archaic and did I mention, wrong? Yep, that’s it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think it’s an outdated rule and should be changed. I understand why the rule was put into place, but I feel it’s time to reconsider it. I understand they want to have as little risk as possible and that is considered to increase the risk. All blood is tested anyway, so I don’t see why they can’t get rid of that ruling. I wouldn’t go as far as boycotting blood donation though because many people benefit from blood donation. I would feel really badly knowing my blood donation could help someone and I wasn’t donating it.

ETpro's avatar

I think it is outdated, bigoted, and stupid. Testing is the answer, because HIV and hepatitis C can infect straights just as certainly as they can gays. As badly as we need blood donations, banning any significant segment of the population is wrong-headed.

kevbo's avatar

I can’t donate because I ate beef in Britain 17 years ago, and it’s not even because they know I have mad cow, it’s because they just don’t know what to do. So… whatev. Bank your own.

Nullo's avatar

I think that homosexual men are at a higher risk of diseases such as AIDS, and therefore am glad that donations aren’t accepted.
@ETpro It is cheaper to just get someone else’s blood.

I’m sorta in @kevbo‘s place on this, having eaten beef during a Mad Cow conundrum.

Winters's avatar

Well nowadays we can easily test for diseases that we originally banned their blood for, but with a lot of people being homophobic to different extents, I guess we could just simply do this in small steps, let homosexuals give blood to homosexuals for a while and eventually work our way to letting them become accepted as donors.
@kevbo I also can’t give blood for living in Germany for 3–4 years because of Mad Cow as well. The reason why we can’t give blood is that Mad Cow is extremely hard to detect unless its already destroying your brain. And there is not set time frame in which it starts killing you.

iWitch's avatar

Well, it makes me really angry, and since I don’t feel like going on a tangent about the idiocy of homophobia, I’ll stop there.

However, the thought of people depriving the sick of blood for another cause makes me homicidal.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I didn’t know homosexual males were banned. What specifically is being screened out that isn’t already tested for? As a female then how are they to determine if men I have sex with aren’t closeted homosexuals or whatever and so “contaminate” the ideal blood pool?

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo No, all donated blood is tessted. It may make sense to exclude those who are at high risk of having diseases we cannot test for, but neither AIDS nor hepatitis C fall into that category.

This is from testimony of the Deputy Commissioner of the FDA before Congress. “Second, after donation, the blood is tested for blood-borne agents such as HIV-1, HIV-2, HBV, HCV, HTLV-1, syphilis, and CMV (some collections). Donors also are excluded based on risk of malaria, CJD, and acute illness.”

Mamradpivo's avatar

Every time I give blood, as a hetero male, I get ‘the AIDS talk’ in the briefing room ahead of time. Basically, they will test my blood for HIV, AIDS and a number of other diseases that can be transmitted by blood. I have the opportunity to opt out immediately, or, if I’m more comfortable, I can call the number they give me within 72 hours to have my blood anonymously removed from the pool.

If that’s good enough for me, why on earth isn’t it good enough for everyone? They’re going to test a sample of your blood for all the diseases they’re worried about anyway.

That said, I know at least two gay men who donate blood and lie about their history.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

The rule is pointless – so many men don’t answer those questionnaires truthfully…I’ve protested blood drives for this…and I can’t donate blood anyway because I’m always getting tattooed but have gone with all my gay male friends to have their (perfectly normal) blood donated…we all get tested for HIV and other STDs regularly.

Mariah's avatar

I can’t completely decide how I feel about this. We certainly might not have nearly the blood shortage we have if we weren’t so jumpy about ruling out huge groups of potential donors. Some of it just seems ridiculous, too. My friend once tested positive for hep C; later tests confirmed that the first test was a false positive, but now she can never donate for the rest of her life because of that one result. It just seems like a waste. But there are a lot of statistics to consider, too. People argue that the blood can be tested, but false negatives do happen, not often, but they happen. And of course, although anyone can have AIDS, it is statistically more prevalent among homosexual men. It doesn’t feel right because it seems discriminatory, but statistics are inherently objective.

I do think that the policy, whether it is flawed or not, is based on health and safety at heart and not on discrimination. I don’t think anyone at the Red Cross is sitting around, rubbing their hands together maniacally, plotting the next way to oppress gay men.

I do, however, know that I feel very strongly against the reaction that some people have had to this issue. Boycotting blood donation does not fix the problem. It only harms the innocent people who need blood.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Neizvestnaya When you go to donate blood, there is a screening questionnaire that asks about what they consider risk factors for certain diseases. They ask about living in Europe during the whole Mad Cow thing, they ask men if they’ve had sex with other men and women if they have had sex with a male that has had sex with another male. They also ask about recent tattoos and piercings. There are a few other questions as well. If your answers put you “at risk” they will tell you that you are unable to donate blood.

Once you get through the screening, they then tell you that your blood will be tested for a bunch of illnesses anyway to be sure that it is “clean” before using it for donations. One of the tests is for HIV, so it doesn’t really make sense to ban people for homosexual sex because they are at risk of HIV since they are going to test for it anyway.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Seaofclouds: I understand what you’ve written, I’ve donated blood a few times but don’t recall reading anywhere that homosexual men are not to donate. It could be that since I’m female I glossed over that fine print.

Robot's avatar

it’s WRONG.

Winters's avatar

@Robot its mainly because homosexuals (especially males) are more prone to carry STD’s and they want to minimize the risk of possibly passing on these diseases to other people.

Robot's avatar

@Winters yes i see thats what (they) are thinking however i strongly disagree in this being the case in this day and age. And I disagree with your statement 100%.

Do you KNOW this personally? really? how many homosexuals have you been with?

ETpro's avatar

Does anyone know what the false negative rate is for the 3-tier testing currently done on all blood donations. I did find that the risk rate of getting AIDS in the US is 1 in 2.5 million transfusions, but that is with the current FDA ban on gay men and certain other high-risk groups donating.

iWitch's avatar

Oh, and they have blood drives at my school and I know from personal experience that they don’t ask you who you’ve fucked.

So… where in American is that happening, because it isn’t at my local Red Cross.

Winters's avatar

@Robot hahaha, despite being pretty darn conservative, I have and had several homosexual friends, answer enough?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@iWitch It should be part of the screening process for every blood donation in the US and should be done every time someone donates. Sometimes it’s just part of a questionnaire they give you to fill out, then they review your answers and tell you that you can or can’t donate. I’ve donated blood at least 50 times, and every time I’ve had to answer those questions.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am sort of in the middle here with Mariah, GA by the way.

It is not based on any sort of homophobia, just statistics. As with vaccinations, the statistics are not alarming until you or someone you love happens to be the “one in whatever” then the scenario becomes quite different.

Robot's avatar

@Winters hahaha yourself pal. im sure what homosexual friends you have if that is even true would not appreciate your statement at all. If so you must have been with a lot of whores, whatever their sexual orientation is. I really do not think that in this day and age if ever in my opinion “homosexuals (especially males) are more prone to carrying STD’s” Me being a lesbian especially am extremely offended by that statement. But hey, everyone has the right to their own opinion. I had a feeling i shouldnt have comment to this post tho, bc I knew their would be many disagreements and I am not looking to get fired up. Most of my friends are straight however and I avoid the whole gay scene and gay pride deal as a whole in general because I believe sexual orientation is just that. It shouldn’t be your whole life or all you are about which a lot of gay people i know or have known are all about that. But in a case like this I felt I had to say something and I think many, many people especially homosexuals would be appauled by your statement.

iWitch's avatar

@Seaofclouds I’ve donated twice at my school and many of my friends have donated too. I’ve never filled out anything except for a form stating they could test my blood.

DominicX's avatar

I feel the same way @Mariah does and I’m homosexual myself. I understand why it’s done. It may seem unfair and ridiculous, but it’s not done out of homophobia and discrimination, it’s just one extra precaution, it’s just one more thing to lower the chances of blood with HIV in it. Still, as @Simone_De_Beauvoir said, people can easily lie on these things and if they know they don’t have HIV because they’ve been tested, it should be fine.

The thought of giving blood makes me feel like I’m going to faint, so I’ve never actually given blood and I don’t know how I’d feel if I really wanted to someday.

Winters's avatar

@Robot I agree with everything after the first three sentences. I never said that I believe it, I’m just stating what I understand and have obtained from different sources. As for the whore business, sorry to disappoint, I have not been with that many “whores,” and my homosexual friends understand that I enjoy being the jerk in any argument, they actually find it hilarious. But yeah, I will hahaha myself, if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re clearly a bore. ha ha ha.

ETpro's avatar

@Robot As sympathetic as I am to homosexuals and the bigotry they face, this should be a question of science and statistics, not emotion and politics. If false negatives are prevalent enough to warrant excluding certain lifestyles, then I would have to support excluding them, at least untill a better test is available. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any information on the false negative rate of the test. I think it is very low, but probably nowhere near as low as the current rate of 1 transmission of AIDS per 2.5 million transfusions. If that is so, then the exclusion is working to protect the blood supply.

Robot's avatar

@Winters Oh no i can laugh at myself and trust me i am the farthest thing from a “bore” I just cannot tolerate ignorance and I’m sorry if that was you being sarcastic to some extent.. maybe? It is kind of hard to tell being as we are not actually speaking to eachother and again we don’t know eachother. Regardless I like this site and like healthy/peaceful debates so therefore I do not visit to have someone I don’t even know piss me off and if that starts happening I’ll just have to learn which posts to comment to and which not even if I really want to. I can appreciate different opinions though and diversity, however I will refuse to let someone’s statement who I don’t even know put me in a bad mood. And I personally do not tolerate jerks in any sense whatever my or their orientation.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Is there a period of time where a donor might have the disease but the testing does not discover it? For example, 2 days after first contracting the infection is the blood test sufficiently sensitive to identify the pathogen?

BarnacleBill's avatar

Hate to disappoint you, but you can get HIV from heterosexual sex.

Following the Mr. Ed Principle of information dissemination (Go right to the source and ask the horse) here’s the Red Cross Blood Donor Guidelines. Far more skin in the game than Wikipedia.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I feel for those gay men who are offended and hurt by this rule and those who empathize with them but from the point of view of maintaining a safe blood supply at a reasonable cost, this practice may be justifiable. Any aspect of the policies that are based on blind prejudice are just plain wrong. Where they are based on solid empirical data concerning high risk groups, it is just about protecting those whose lives depend on a reliable blood supply.

ETpro's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence As this discussion has unfolded, I have gone from assuming it was blind prejudice to concluding, after reviewing evidence I searched for on the false negative rates in testing and the incredible safety level here in the US (one infection per 2.5 million transfusions) compared to what the World Health Organization reports as a world average (1 infection per 1000 transfusions) that science is the deciding factor. The standard tests look for HIV1 and HIV2 antibodies. A brand new infection would slip through.

AC's avatar

Hang on, isn’t this like saying that we are going to stop you from helping people because there might be a chance we’ll have to reject your donation, before it reaches anyone anyway.

There’s more than a fair chance that fast food will kill hundreds and thousands of people with no positive benefit I can think of, yet that practise can carry on happily finishing people off around the world. We don’t mind if you are high risk, have another burger.

A massive generalisation that I’m not comfortable with.

Nullo's avatar

@Mariah When you absolutely cannot afford failure, you tend to take more extreme approaches.
I read a short piece by Michael Crichton once that told of his adventures hiking in Nepal. Three days out, the party came to a shallow, slow-moving river. The guide spent much effort making elaborate preparations, including mooring a safety line to pikes which he placed at intervals in the riverbed. When asked about it, the guide replied that if anybody were seriously injured in the crossing, rescue was six long, cold days away, and the victim could very easily die in the meantime.

meagan's avatar

The way I’ve heard it, it takes longer than 3 months to get a clear AIDs test result. So these things being “easily tested” isn’t so true.
I don’t want blood that might or might not have aids. I’m sorry, I just don’t want the chance.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I agree with all those who think it is wrong. As others have said, Aids doesn’t just affect gays so the rule is pretty pointless.

Nullo's avatar

@Leanne1986 Pretty much anybody can learn Spanish. But if you’re looking for someone who can speak Spanish, your odds of success are significantly higher in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood.

Facade's avatar

I never knew this was a law. It’s wrong, embarrassing, and disgusting. What the fuck is wrong with people?!

iamthemob's avatar

The technical loophole here is that there is not a ban on gay men giving blood. The provision states that you are disqualified if you are a man who has had sex with another man at any point from 1977 forwards. Therefore, you could be a donor if you have never engaged in anal sex during that period – there are many gay men who might very well qualify.

Of course, practically, this acts to exclude a large majority of the gay male population. Additionally, it is both over and underinclusive. Both of these points tend to show that the policy is discriminatory, and not for practical purposes.

If the reasoning behind the policy is to reduce the possibility of contamination from people who engage in high-risk behavior, there are several problems:

(1) It does not separate receptive anal sex out. Active parties in anal sex are at a much lower risk – it is the receptive behavior that is “high risk.”

(2) It does not separate out unsafe vs. safe sexual behavior.

(3) It does not separate out those with multiple sexual partners from those with minimal partners.

(4) It does not eliminate women who have had sex vaginally. The vast majority of HIV infected women become infected due to heterosexual sex. Considering that tops have 1/10th the risk of bottoms, this makes men who are strictly tops or almost always tops in anal sex statistically similar to women who are infected through heterosexual sex.

What we really should be asking about, therefore, is what kind of at-risk behavior the people have engaged in.

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